Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United
- Goals: Mohamed Salah x3 (£12.0m), Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) | Jack Harrison (£5.5m), Patrick Bamford (£5.5m), Mateusz Klich (£5.5m)
- Assists: Andrew Robertson (£7.0m), Fabinho (£5.5m), | Kalvin Phillips (£5.0m), Stuart Dallas (£4.5m), Hélder Costa (£5.5m)
- Bonus Points: Salah x3, Klich x2, Bamford x1
Mohamed Salah (£12.0m) finally delivered on the promise he showed at the end of last season by exploding with a 20-point haul against Leeds United.
That was his biggest score since Gameweek 16 of 2018/19 when he racked up 21 points in a 4-0 win at Bournemouth.
The Egyptian spent the final Gameweeks of 2019/20 shooting often, hitting the target regularly and still went goalless between Gameweeks 35+ and 38+ without finding the back of the net.
Despite a rather flat outing in the Community Shield, Salah picked up where he left off at Anfield on Saturday, carrying that shot-laden form into the new campaign – and it finally paid off.
Admittedly, two-thirds of his hat-trick came from the penalty spot but it is difficult to count that against a man who registered no more than nine attempts on goal in Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Leeds.
As predicted by Jan Sienkiewicz in the Gameweek 1 Captain Sensible article, the way Marcelo Bielsa’s men set themselves up, pressing high up the pitch and asking questions of their own, suited Salah perfectly.
It opened up acres of space for him to exploit, allowing him enough time to win a first-half penalty by way of his fierce shot striking Robin Koch‘s (£4.5m) outstretched arm, before smashing a loose-ball high into the net for his second.
In Gameweek 1 Salah’s circa 30% ownership almost made him something of a differential, especially for the 890,000+ managers who captained him. With his former club Chelsea up next, a side that conceded 1.7 goals per game during Project Restart interest in the Egyptian is sure to climb in the coming days.
As already mentioned, the space behind Leeds’ defence was key to Liverpool’s attacking threat on Saturday, although Sadio Mané (£12.0m) could not quite take advantage of it.
For most of the night, he had the beating of right-back Luke Ayling (£4.5m) but he left his first Anfield outing of the season without a single shot on target.
We should also point out the extenuating circumstances that probably helped Liverpool and Salah a little more than expected. Yes, Leeds were always going to play adventurous football at Anfield, such is Bielsa’s style, but they faced the defending Premier League champions without first-choice centre-back and club captain Liam Cooper (£4.5m).
The Scottish international’s knock is not thought to be serious, and he is likely to be in with a chance of facing Fulham in Gameweek 2, but his absence did leave Leeds short on Saturday afternoon.
It was Cooper’s partnership with Ben White (£4.5m) that helped Leeds record the best defensive record in the Championship last season, but neither was present in Gameweek 1. Bielsa was forced to pair Pascal Struijk (£4.0m) with new signing Koch – and what a torrid debut it was for the latter.
It was his outstretched arm that gave away the penalty in the opening exchanges and he completely lost his man when Virgil van Dijk (£6.5m) nodded home a first-half corner unchallenged.
With Cooper likely back in the Leeds team next time out, they may fare better at home to Fulham, while Salah might find it slightly more difficult facing Thiago Silva (£5.5m) at Stamford Bridge… although Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.0m) was the main reason for Chelsea’s defensive problems last season.
Outside of Salah’s huge haul, the biggest talking point from Liverpool’s win over Leeds was one of their worst defensive showings in recent memory.
Despite coming into this game with every member of their first-choice back-four in the starting line-up, the visitors breached the Reds three times and could easily have scored even more.
That said, perhaps Fantasy managers should not be so surprised to see Liverpool struggling at the back, as their defensive problems have now been winding on for some time.
For all the enthusiasm with which Reds defenders are viewed in the Fantasy community, they still only managed to keep seven clean sheets at Anfield from a possible 19 last season (36.8%).
Furthermore, during Project Restart, they conceded a total of 20 big chances, the seventh-most in the league across that period. The last time Jurgen Klopp’s men recorded a shut-out in a competitive fixture was in a 2-0 win over Aston Villa on July 5.
Since then, they have conceded to Brighton (1), Burnley (1), Arsenal (2), Chelsea (3), Newcastle (1), Arsenal (1) and Leeds (3) at an average of 1.7 per game.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.5m), whose summer injury kept him from any involvement in Liverpool’s pre-season campaign, was the main culprit for Leeds’ first goal. He was caught out of position, allowing Stuart Dallas (£4.5m) the time to find Jack Harrison (£5.5m).
Joe Gomez (£5.5m) was also at fault, offering too little in the way of pressure on Harrison, and neither did Alexander-Arnold, before he stuck the ball into the net.
Incredibly, even van Dijk’s performance was sub-par, his woeful attempted flair-clearance playing the ball straight to Patrick Bamford (£5.5m) inside the box; the Leeds strike needing only to hook it past Alisson (£6.0m).
More disorganisation at the back was on display as Hélder Costa (£5.5m) put the ball in the net in the eighth minute, Liverpool saved only by the offside flag on that occasion. Bamford was also allowed a clear run at Alisson in the aftermath of Liverpool scoring going 2-1 up.
And in the second half, nobody was marking Mateusz Klich (£5.5m) as he ghosted into the box and rifled Costa’s through-ball into the bottom corner.
After that, Harrison got behind the back of Liverpool’s defence once again, successfully lobbing the ball over Alisson, which Alexander-Arnold then headed into his own net. Liverpool were, again, saved by the offside flag on this occasion.
Even though van Dijk and Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) each finished Gameweek 1 with an attacking return to their name, Saturday’s seven-goal thriller hardly inspires too much confidence in a Liverpool defensive double-up – or triple-up in some cases. There will have to be some serious improvement before travelling to face Timo Werner (£9.5m), Kai Havertz (£8.5m) and company at Stamford Bridge next week.
However, there was still plenty to like about what these players offer going forward.
Yes, Alexander-Arnold was very rusty defensively, but his set-play delivery was still strong. During a promising second-half spell, he went close to registering two assists from corners. First, he found Salah at the near post, whose shot was blocked before van Dijk nodded the resulting corner just over the bar.
The centre-back could have also added to his tally, a second-half unmarked headed goal ruled out for a foul by Curtis Jones (£4.5m) in the build-up.
And Robertson could have added to his assist tally for the evening when Struijk deflected his cross towards his own goal, before it was desperately tipped over by Illan Meslier (£4.5m).
Naturally, owners of more than one Liverpool defensive asset are likely to give the set-up a bit more time to settle into a rhythm this season, but they will certainly be asking for improvements at this end of the field moving forward…
Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Robertson, van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold (Matip 89′); Keïta (Fabinho 58′), J Henderson (C Jones 66′), Wijnaldum; Mané, Firmino, Salah.
Leeds United XI (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Dallas, Struijk, Koch, Ayling; Phillips; Costa, Hernández (Roberts 62′), Klich (Shackleton 81′), Harrison; Bamford (Rodrigo 62′).
FPL Lessons Learned from Gameweek 1
- Fulham 0-3 Arsenal
- Crystal Palace 1-0 Southampton
- Liverpool 4-3 Leeds United
- West Ham United 0-1 Newcastle United
- West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Leicester City
- Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Everton
- Sheffield United 0-2 Wolves
- Brighton and Hove Albion 1-3 Chelsea